Essays are powerful when stories are written from heart. Nearly 15 years ago, when The New York Times published its series called ‘Modern Love’ about true stories of love, heartbreaks and redemption of relationships, the floodgates opened. Thousands wrote letters and the lucky few who got published shared their heartwarming tales. Then came the series in podcast were top Hollywood stars read the essays. With soul-stirring background music, the podcast gripped millions across the globe.
Now the popular love column dived into the world of motion pictures, debuting on Amazon Prime Video as an eight-episode anthology series. Following the theme of the column, Modern Love strikes ace with powerful stories, performance and pleasant background score. Set in New York, the titles for each episode are catchy just like the headlines of each essay.
In episode one, ‘When the Doorman Is Your Main Man’, we see Cristin Milioti (Maggie Mitchell), dating men. She is a book reviewer, living in a beautiful apartment. Her apartment’s doorman, Guzmin (Laurentiu Possa) acts as her father figure at times when Cristin faces troubles. Episode two, ‘When Cupid Is a Prying Journalist’, we follow Julie (Catherine Keener) a journalist asking the love story of Joshua (Dev Patel) whom she interviews. Ironically, Joshua is the creator of a dating app. The story explores the downside of a broken relationship and what happens next to a couple, post-breakup. As Julie hears his story, she soon starts remembering her old flame, Michael (Andy García).
The rest of the episodes, ‘Take Me as I Am, Whoever I Am’, ‘Rallying to Keep the Game Alive’, ‘At the Hospital, an Interlude of Clarity’, ‘So He Looked Like Dad. It Was Just Dinner, Right?’, ‘Hers Was a World of One’ and ‘The Race Grows Sweeter Near Its Final Lap’, explores multiple facets of love through marriage, gay relationship, adoption, love in old age and even a dad-daughter affection that goes out of hand.
What works for Modern Love is its trust in the environment of the characters; every scene screams ‘New York, New York’ and we get lost in the chaos of this iconic city that never sleeps. Though laced with cliches in nearly all episodes, its the simplest of humane emotions that resonate deep among the characters.
For example, in ‘So He Looked Like Dad. It Was Just Dinner, Right?’, Maddy (Julia Garner) seeks a father figure in Peter (Shea Whigham) a senior professional in her office. But their relationship stumbles when Peter takes it in the wrong way. In ‘Hers Was a World of One’, we see a gay couple Tobin (Andrew Scott) and Andy (Brandon Kyle Goodman) who support Karla (Olivia Cooke), a pregnant homeless woman who is about to give them her baby.
‘The Race Grows Sweeter Near Its Final Lap’ is an ode to finding love in old age. It’s a theme that is often left in the vague. In a few montages, we witness the birth of two senior love birds, Margot (Jane Alexander) and James Saito (Kenji), who move in together. The final episode is fantastic as it eventually connects all the characters of the previous episodes; it probably gives a gentle bow to the saying “it’s a small world after all”. The camera pans and tracks to the characters at spots which is just a stone’s throw away to one another. Modern Love is a tribute to simple love stories brimmed with cliches. Watch it for the performance and music on a lazy weekend.